The origins of this distinctive urushi lacquer ware were the result of a chance discovery. At the beginning of the 17th century, a head carpenter who worked on the building of temples and shrines in the castle town of Takayama, was surprised to find that when he literally peeled a piece of sawara cypress apart, it produced an interesting textural effect. He made it up into a tray and lightly lacquered the surfaces. Because the coloring of this tray resembled the hishunkei, a well-known tea ceremony tea jar of the potter, Kato Kagemasa, the name shunkei was adopted for this unusual type of lacquer ware.
Many of the articles produced are skillfully bent into shape or assembled from thin boards. But what makes Hida Shunkei urushi ware so special is the way that the beauty of the surface of the wood is brought out by the application of a transparent coating of lacquer. It is produced by a special method from raw natural lacquer and used to coat the wood. The technique is still used today in the making of many household articles such as trays, boxes of many kinds, tea ceremony items and small tables.